My sister Debbie told me a funny story the other day. She was watching a reality show with my elementary-aged niece, Lilly. The show was about mothers and daughters, and involved some sort of competition. As the show focused on the mothers, Lilly complained, “This part’s so boring, the mothers are old, I’d rather watch the daughters.” My sister teased, “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so judgy, someday you’re going to be older, too…” Lilly said (in all seriousness), “Nope, I’m going to find the youth fountain.”
While the story made me chuckle, it also stuck with me. We’re all aging, even Lilly. As long as we have a heart beat, each day we wake up that much older.
The kicker is, we all age in different ways. There’s genetics, which leaves us either thanking or cursing mom and dad. And then there are the choices we make along the way.
Sadly, there’s no “youth fountain” in the way crazy little Lilly envisions it. But there really are things we can do to be younger and live longer. Here’s a snapshot of some research-based ways to add years to your life and your RVing years.
1. Move, Move, Move.
Of course, being physically active is the first one that comes to mind – and it’s a biggie. People who exercise live longer. Regular exercise lowers your disease risk as well, so not only will you extend your years, your years will be healthier. But there’s more to this one than just planned bouts of exercise. Just because you take a brisk 30 minute walk around the RV park doesn’t mean you’re covered. Keeping yourself moving needs to be a lifestyle. The research on too much sitting shows a wide range of health hazards – diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease – even when you exercise regularly. Get up out of that lawn chair, take driving breaks frequently, and give your body the movement it needs throughout the day every day!
2. Build relationships with others.
In our quest to live & RV longer, many of us overlook a powerful weapon: our friends and loved ones. As we age, we might allow ourselves to become more socially isolated, with fewer close friends and less time involved in social activities. This is deadly, and raises our risk 2 to 5 times for diseases like heart disease, cancer, depression, and even dementia according to research. Having close friends and a strong social network not only adds years to our lives, it also makes our lives richer and more enjoyable. Plus, our friends’ habits tend to rub off on us. Find active and social friends, and before you know it, you’ll be active and social, too.
3. Eat to Live.
Your diet matters. A lot. Part of the problem is we don’t need as much food when we’re older as we did back in the glory days. Yet, we continue to eat like we used to. And then there’s the other problem. Junk foods can sometimes taste way too yummy. Eating healthfully and choosing appropriate portion sizes takes self-discipline, but it’s crucial for healthy aging. There’s a huge sign that hangs in the Advanced RV cafeteria. It says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That pretty much sums it up. If you want to age well and stay on the road, take note of that brilliant advice. It will be a daily battle, but you have to convince yourself that your health is worth it.
4. Control Your Stress.
If it feels like you’re so stressed, it’s killing you; that’s because it might be. Stress causes deterioration throughout the body, and depresses our immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer. Luckily, there are many researched techniques that successfully lower stress levels. Breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, Tai-Chi and Qi-gong are just a few of the methods that have been studied and proven to combat the ill-effects of stress. Now, managing stress is easier said than done – just ask James. Actually, don’t ask James. He’s in denial about being a giant stress-ball. I’m still working on him…
So the good news is, finding the fountain of youth is much simpler than in the movies—no hacking your way through jungles with a machete required. It boils down to this: The next time you hit the road, stop frequently, move lots, eat less, seek out social activities, and take lots of deep stress-relieving breaths. THAT’S where the real “youth fountain” lies.